199 Transforming Meal Prep and Planning with Nakita Attard Vassallo
Tired of the daily scramble to answer the 'what's for dinner' question? Longing for a way to streamline your meal planning and preparation routine that doesn't involve spending hours in your kitchen every weekend? Nakita, a meal prep expert, joins me to share her unique approach and practical tips on transforming meal prep and planning from a chore into a game-changer!
Together, we unpack the key differences between meal planning and meal prepping, and how integrating these practices can shave hours off your weekly routine. Nakita shines a light on batch cooking, sharing how even one simple recipe per week can free up time and, more importantly, mental energy.
But we don't stop there! We also dive into the ripple effect meal planning can have on your lifestyle, like conscious recipe choices and reduced time wasted on impromptu grocery shopping. Nakita offers an insight into how cooking for the following day has saved her from stress and introduces her meal planning membership service, designed to take the guesswork out of dinner time completely.
Tune in, and discover how meal planning and prepping can offer relief from daily decision fatigue and pave the way for work-life harmony.
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Megan Host 00:00
Hey everyone, I have an amazing guest here today. She's going to blow your mind and really help you rethink or maybe establish a better relationship, which is what I needed. With this whole idea of meal prep, I've avoided it. The few times I've tried it, I've hated it. But this was until I met Nakita, so she has a very different approach of how she handles meal prep. That doesn't mean that you are spending six hours every Sunday in the kitchen, so I am super excited for you guys to hear the conversation. She's got some amazing tips and, more importantly, stick around to the end, because she has an incredible offer for all of you listening here today.
Welcome to the WorkLife Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the top program and top planner teaching all things time management, organization, and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife and, just like you, I'm juggling #allthethings while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out. There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time planning an organization to skyrocket your productivity, so you can have work + life harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, this is the show for you, and if you're new here, I'd love to get you started with my work + life harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram, @MeganSumrell., with the word harmony, and my team will send it right over.
All right, everyone, welcome back to work + life harmony. You have asked for it. You have been begging for experts to help us with meal planning, meal prep, all of the things that make me grown, and so I am thrilled to introduce you to our guest here today. So, Nakita, i'm going to let you introduce yourself, and then we are going to dive into a topic I avoid often because this is not my zone of genius. So I'm super excited to talk about this today.
Nakita Guest 02:08
Hi, Megan. First of all, thank you for inviting me on the show. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Nakita and I help busy moms who are stressed and exhausted with feeding their families, And I help them go to feeling confident and inspired because they always know what's for dinner And they also, as well, have time which is freed up so that they can spend it with their families, which is what your people are after, right? Yes?
Megan Host 02:35
absolutely. I think, like no one tells you that if you end up like starting a family, that you are going to have to answer the question what's for dinner for the rest of your blood life? This was not something I was prepared for, So yeah, but this would even be a topic I need to think about one day and have across my mind Full disclosure. I've always shared with them. When I got married, you know, later in my 30s, And so I mean I was living in the world of I ate cereal for dinner a lot, or if I had a big lunch, I didn't eat dinner right. So this has always been something that has been challenging for me, And I'd love to start the discussion of first understanding What is the difference between meal prep and meal planning, Because I think sometimes that terms used interchangeably And to me they're two very different things. So I'd love to get your thoughts on that.
Nakita Guest 03:27
They definitely are. In fact, meal prepping, you're just prepping ahead. So you could be prepping ahead full on meals or even just components of meals or single ingredients, And then meal planning, on the other hand, is just planning what meals you'd like to eat on which days. And, contrary to popular belief, because a lot of people and I don't blame them, because this is what we see on social media and dump interest they think that in order to be successful at meal prepping, you need to spend Saturday or Sunday at home and you need to prepare these perfect meals in these perfect containers, all lined up in the fridge, and just say goodbye to Saturday afternoon while the kids are out with the husband and you're just slaving away in the kitchen. But that's not how we do things around here. Relief, i used to try and do this before because I was the mom who was struggling with meal planning and meal prepping and I decided it was time to make a change, and meal prepping was one of the first things that I dove into. Instead of planning all of these extensive and totally overwhelming days where you meal prep, you can just simply prep as you go. So, for example, let's say you're slicing tomatoes, you can slice an extra tomato, put it into a container in the fridge and if you're making tomato and cheese sandwiches for the kids, your tomatoes are ready to go, so it's so much quicker to make a sandwich.
If you are making an omelette, you can put four eggs into your pan instead of two. You can make a larger omelette just slice half of it, put it in the fridge and there you go. You have an omelette for the next day. You can have it for lunch in a rack, you can have it to your sandwich. But, as you can see, this is so much easier to just planning a session, which is so grueling and so hard And it's not exactly. It doesn't really give you the encouragement to do it every single week, right, but doing small things here and there can really add up. And then there is my magic trick, which is just batch cooking. One simple recipe per week. This is what I like to do as meal prep to free up literally hours every week.
Megan Host 05:37
You see, you're already making me feel so much better about it, because we definitely are. We lean into the meal planning which I've shared before. We typically on Sunday although, be honest, we didn't know this last weekend, but it's because it's a weird week But we'll typically at least lay out okay, this is what we're gonna have, so we can go to the store and have everything. But to me, every time I've seen people talk about meal prep, they're like, oh yeah, i just spent like four hours in the kitchen on Sunday chopping up. I'm like, oh my God, that. No, i want my weekends to be my weekends, and so I've never really explored another way to think about bringing prep in smaller chunks instead of it being this one huge thing. So how do we marry the two together to make sure that we are picking, like, when we're doing meal planning, that we're creating meals that lend themselves to that kind of prepping?
Nakita Guest 06:33
as you go, i think the key is to planning ahead well. Yes to choosing one really simple recipe per week which you are to make and your family love. It may be, for example, chili con carne, which is pretty simple to put together right.
And instead of making one batch, you make three. If you're using something like the slow cooker especially, it's even easier, right? so you're just chucking in all your ingredients. All you're really spending is maybe an extra 10 minutes to prep a larger portion. That's it. You eat one for dinner, you freeze the other two portions and that's saving you so much time. You're saving time thinking, running through the stores, cooking another meal altogether, cleaning up again. It's just in the freezer. You need to boil some rice, and it's done So. Once you've selected this one recipe per week and your meal planning, and then, of course, even if you pick, like, another two recipes per week, it's pretty much enough, because you know we have leftovers We eat out.
Sometimes you're batch cooking and if you are freezing to meals per week, i mean you can do the math. That's two, four, six, eight. Yeah, i could say, my brain started spinning a month, oh yeah, that frees up all that much more time as well, which makes meal planning so much easier, because a lot of people just get so overwhelmed with the idea of meal planning.
Megan Host 07:51
I love that idea of one a week because we have a couple things. My husband makes this amazing spaghetti sauce, but it's an all day event. He loves it, but we do that, or else I'll do chili, but then that's kind of it, whereas if we started thinking about what's one thing a week, i could see after a couple weeks of doing that. Now we already have one or two meals covered in our freezer from a month ago. Because I know for a lot of people there is some people just are very anti leftovers, like even my husband. He'll eat just about anything. He's like I just don't want to eat the same thing the same week. But if we're freezing it and bringing it out two weeks later, then I think that could bring a lot of happiness.
Nakita Guest 08:34
I'm the same, I like my variety. But yeah, we put it in the freezer and if you pack it well, you have to be careful that you expel as much air as you can when you're freezing. I like to use freezer bags because you can really use one hand to remove the air so that you don't get freezer burn. Because when you get the freezer burn, that's where you start to see the quality of the food diminishing. It starts to change color, change taste a little bit. But if you're freezing well, you can keep food in the freezer for three for a month and they will be perfect. No one will even realize that they've been frozen.
Megan Host 09:06
Yeah, we actually use again for his spaghetti and stuff. We have that one of those food saver things that just seals and sucks all the air out. Plus it makes it so much smaller, which I love for stacking in the freezer. For folks who have never really embarked on planning or prepping, where do they even go to get started? Do you need to plan breakfast, lunch, dinner every single day for a week? or, because that might feel a little overwhelming, how do people kind of ease into this?
Nakita Guest 09:37
I would suggest that they start with planning dinners first, because that's like for most people, it's the meal where the family gathers together and the most important meal of the day, because we socialize and we get that time. We get that 20 to 30 minutes where we can sit down and have a conversation after our days and just plan dinners. And, like we were mentioning, you don't need to go overboard and plan seven dinners, even if you just start with three a week and see how it feels and start to get used to it, because consistency is key Doesn't mean that if you don't plan one week, you're going to give up. No, but when you start doing it week after week after week, it becomes easier and it becomes a habit and it becomes part of your routine. So if you're meat planning and you prepare a shopping list, once you have all the ingredients at home, then it's really easy to just put them together.
Megan Host 10:26
Yeah, and I think what's nice too is, when I think about it, the times that we have done a good job with our meal planning. If you've got young kids, it makes it easier to involve them in a kitchen with you as well, because you have a plan and you can kind of instead of that last minute trying to pull something together or run into the store, and then it's kind of stressful and we don't want to take the time to have others help us cook as well. Yeah, now where is a good resource? Because you know some food, some dinners, lend themselves to leftovers, or you know creating extra batches better than others. Do you have any suggestions on good resources or ways to find recipes that work well for that kind of making extra and freezing some for the future?
Nakita Guest 11:08
I do have a lot of blog posts on my blog Fantastic, yeah. They have a lot of tips on meal planning and freezer meals and like what foods you should be freezing and what you shouldn't. But I think that a very good indication is to look at what's being well, what's in the supermarket and the freezer aisles. So, basically, a lot of things can be frozen. Just, i wouldn't recommend freezing fish because it cooks so quickly it doesn't make sense to freeze it. And also, be careful with fried foods, because, although you see them frozen at the supermarket, what they do is they have these industrial machines and they are like flash freezing and that's why the batter stays intact, but if you try it at home, you get a soggy mess.
Okay, so there are a few things like soups and stews and chilies and pies and baked pastas and pasta sauces and stir fries. There's just so much that you can freeze. Anything with a high water content doesn't freeze well as well. Take, for example, lettuce. you know no one freezes lettuce because, yeah, one that freezes and once it defrost, you can imagine that it will change the structure completely. So those are just the things to keep in mind if there's someone who would like to experiment with freezing, and they're unsure. Just take a small portion of something that's waiting for dinner, like literally a tiny container, put it in the freezer and see how that goes.
That's a really easy way to just you know get your feet wet and experiment and test, without going all out with freezing a batch of food and you're not sure how to freeze it, you're not sure if it's going to turn out well. So it will give you that confidence that you need to help you get started.
Megan Host 12:44
Oh, and we'll put a link to your blog in the show notes, guys, so you can have some good resources there as well. So, since you've been doing this for a while because you know we're always looking at how this impacts our time how much time do you feel it saves you, even when you're doing the prep along the way? right, because to me, that's why I never felt like meal prepping in the traditional sense was a time saver. So I'm like how am I saving time if I'm spending four hours on my weekend doing it versus during the week? So, with this more prepping as you go and having starting to build up this freezer full of food, what are we looking at here from the time savings you feel?
Nakita Guest 13:20
I'm going to give you my number and I'm going to explain why, because it's going to sound like it's a little bit.
Megan Host 13:25
No, I love it.
Nakita Guest 13:26
I think you're saving like five to seven hours a week, because I believe it Hear me out, okay, the most obvious is that you always have a plan and you have the groceries already bought, so everything is home and you get everything done so much quicker. That's the obvious thing. However, there are other things, like when you don't need plan. You're constantly popping in and out of the shops And that's such a massive time waster. You're missing ingredients, you're not sure what you're going to cook, which again wastes precious time because we're just staring at the fridge and the pantry Trying to decide, and you know with the traffic, and then you're at the stores If you're taking your kids with you, that's a whole different.
Megan Host 14:05
Add another 10 hours to that.
Nakita Guest 14:07
You're buying half the store to keep them quiet as well. It's quite costly because you end up buying things that you wouldn't have bought if you would have me planned as well. And when you're meat planning, you're very conscious of the recipes that you're choosing. So you are choosing the quick and easy recipes, but if you're winging it, you're like OK, i have chicken in the freezer, let's go on Pinterest. You spend 15 minutes scrolling on Pinterest, find the recipe And then when you start cooking it, you realize that this took way more time than you had planned. So you end up spending 30 minutes or half an hour more than you planned cooking that day's dinner Right, wasting the time searching for the recipes. You cannot batch cook because if you're not planning, you can't batch cook, which means you're saving those hours because you're batch cooking as well. Most probably you're not meat prepping, because you're just trying to make things work And something really golden as well, something that I used to do when my kids were young.
My kids were very clingy, so I never used to manage to cook with my kids around, and when they got over their bedtime it kept getting later and later and later. It took so long to prepare dinner and it used to stress me out so much. I used to feel like a failure. When this happened, you know, like my husband coming home and the kitchen is a mess, my child needs my attention and I'm just so frustrated because I just want to get dinner on the table. And one day I discovered that it could work really well if I started cooking for the following day And I was like let's give this a shot. So the first day I made two dinners. that's fine because I have to cook for the day And the next day. But the next day dinner was done. Yeah, but on dinner time I started prepping for the following day, but there was no pressure.
Because when there was dinner time, dinner was done from the previous day And that saved me at least for five minutes every day.
Megan Host 15:57
Because when the kids are in bed and you're just finishing off dinner for the following day, do you get it done so quickly And I just focused And I think the stress of I mean it's funny when you talk through all that, i'm like, yeah, if anything, you're probably being cautious on saying how much time is safe. So it could even be more, Because I know for a lot of people, I know there are times where if it's a meal a week, we haven't meal prepped or whatever planned, and it's that 4.30, 4.45 at our house and instantly my husband said what do you want to do for dinner? I'm like I don't know What do you want to do, and so we waste 20 minutes just ping-ponging. I know you just said because at the end of the day, i'm at decision fatigue And I think most of us are as well. We're having to make choices all day long, our brain is tired And so the weeks we have done it, our decision is just which of these three meals we decided we're making do we want to do tonight?
Right, pick one of three That I can make a decision on in about two seconds flat, as opposed to just this huge rest. I don't know What do we have, i don't know What's defrosted, i don't know. Do you want to go? I don't know. And so just this, the mental exhaustion that goes around without having that as a plan as well. You have reframed my views on meal prepping with this. I love this because I think now, since we've gotten pretty good at meal planning, to take it that one step further and really look at my recipes to say, while I'm prepping, making dinner for a specific night, is there things I could be while I've got the vegetables out, chopping in that moment, making the next meal easier, instead of relinquishing my precious weekend time to be standing in the kitchen, which is just not where I want to be. Now I know you have something awesome that's launching today, right, yes, okay, tell us about it.
Nakita Guest 17:47
I'm really excited about this, Megan. We've been running our meat planning membership for a little over a year.
Our members just love being able to cook great food that the family loves in less time than usual, knowing what's for dinner every single day, without feeling stressed out and without having to answer that question. Cooking only three to four times a week, but still they are feeding their family every single day, They have food on the table which everyone is enjoying, and they're just shopping once a week, which is saving them time, energy and money. What we do for our members is basically give them the recipes and the shopping lists We have time saving right there.
Megan Host 18:28
You don't have to decide anything.
Nakita Guest 18:30
I love it And the recipes are family friendly. We have a nutritionist on board as well, so they are nutritionist approved, so you can set your mind at rest that you're feeding your family good food as well. And you get the shopping lists, which is so amazing, right? Because it does take time to just pull together the ingredients. They're easy to customize as well. The nutritionist provides alternatives, say, for people who, for example, want to eat a meat-free recipe for the day or they're gluten intolerance, and it's easy to tweak the recipes. They're family friendly and we suggest even ways to serve them for picky eaters, so that everyone's eating.
Megan Host 19:05
Because I know what to do with that. I mean good. That makes me feel like I'm one of those.
Nakita Guest 19:09
We've come up with a fantastic offer for your listeners as well because I know that giving them that little incentive will help push them to get started, and that's what they need really. If they log on to my website, I'm sure you'll put the link down. Yeah, we've got the link in the show notes. Yeah, The momomanyualcom There's a banner on top, the dinner plan And once they're at the checkout page they can enter one of two codes to get an O-brainer offer. So the first one is Megan 50, and that will give them 50% off their first month. So the first month will just be six euros, which is around about six dollars. Right? Yeah, It's a full month.
Megan Host 19:50
That's the thing, guys.
Nakita Guest 19:50
That's crazy. Full months, right, both meal plans and recipes and shopping lists. Or else, if they want to sign up for a year, Megan's Special will give them 50% off the full year, which is already discounted. So it would come down to 100 euros, which is more or less 110 dollars For the entire year.
Megan Host 20:12
OK, that's a deal, guys, I've got the link and those coupon codes for you in the show notes. I know this is something I am excited to be joining myself and also, guys, we're getting close to our early bird opening for Plano Pelusa. As you guys know if you have been around listening here to Work + Life Harmony for a while I hold a once-a-year live annual planning event, and we are very selective on bringing in just a few guest experts to talk about areas that again, are relevant to our planning, and so I was super excited to have you here today, Nakita. Because, guys, Nakita is going to be involved in Plano Pelusa and will be one of our guest experts helping us really level up our meal-planning abilities as well. So I wanted to present her here today so you guys could already get to know her and love her as much as I do, because that is one more reason for you guys to get excited about Plano Pelusa in the fall.
But I think this membership is going to be a game-changer for so many people. I am excited to dive into it. Anything I can do to answer the question what's for dinner and make it less stressful for me, i'm in. So thank you so much for that generous gift. Thank you for being here today. We are so excited.
Nakita Guest 21:29
Thank you, megan. Just a small note that doors close on the 25th, today week. We only open three times a year because we like to spend our time loving up on our members and making sure that they have everything they need to feel supported.
Megan Host 21:42
All right guys, do not delay on this. Go ahead, jump in, and grab that.
Nakita Guest 21:46
Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure You too.
Megan Host 21:52
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